Monthly Archives: January 2015

NYT Editorial Board calls executions a “horrendous brutality”

Today the New York Times reported on the US Supreme Court’s involvement in executions in Oklahoma. The court will hear a challenge to Oklahoma’s choice of drugs used in lethal injection. The Editorial Board has taken a stand against the “humane” facade of the death penalty, calling capital punishment an “abhorrent practice”. They write:

It is time to dispense with the pretense of a pain-free death. The act of killing itself is irredeemably brutal and violent. If the men on death row had painlessly killed their victims, that would not make their crimes any more tolerable. When the killing is carried out by a state against its own citizens, it is beneath a people that aspire to call themselves civilized.

Later they quote Alex Kozinski, a federal appellate judge in California who wrote:

But executions “are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

As the United States’ “paper of record”, we welcome the New York Times’ strong condemnation of the death penalty and its reflection of the growing shift away from executions.

Exonerated former death row prisoners Gary Drinkard, Ron Keine, and Shujaa Graham lead a march in front of the Texas State Capitol

Exonerated former death row prisoners Gary Drinkard, Ron Keine, and Shujaa Graham lead a march in front of the Texas State Capitol

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“THE NEED TO SAVE REED!” A Solidarity Statement from Kenneth Foster

Kenneth Foster  was 20 years old when he was sentenced to death in 1996,  under Texas’ controversial Law of Parties. Kenneth, his family, and an international group of supporters campaigned successfully to stop his execution in August of 2007. Although still incarcerated, Kenneth is no longer on death row and continues to fight for his freedom. Here he shares a beautiful statement of support for Rodney Reed that is a call to action.

Kenneth Foster and his daughter

Kenneth Foster and his daughter

THE NEED TO SAVE REED!!!

By Kenneth Foster

I remember a week before my scheduled execution date of August 30, 2007, I began to refuse meals. I chose a week before, because 7 days before your date you are put in a cell that has an infrared camera which monitors your every moment.  In solidarity, Rodney Reed sent me a note saying that he too would not be eating for that week.  I just smiled.

I have a long history with Rodney Reed, a history that began with knowing we both spent time growing up in Austin, Texas.  Our talks began with going down memory lane to places like the all-famous Sam’s BBQ which has fed families in East Austin for ages.  Those fun talks led us to deeper talks of our struggle and activism.  As we began sharing our situations we found that we had a few things in common — we weren’t guilty of the crime we were accused of and we weren’t guilty and we weren’t laying down and accepting it!  Rodney was already a few steps ahead of me in his fight, but he was not selfish about passing along insights of what one must do to gain justice…. IF you was serious about it.  That “IF” comes with a lot of inside laughs from me, because Rodney is such a character.  He’s so serious that sometimes he comes off humorous — “All that hard stuff is what you got you locked up.  That coffin is hard, too.  You better get your act together.”  The “Old Grumpy Man” is what I began to call him, but his words were so real and so true. Curt, hard to swallow, but accurate.  When one was able to put aside his emotions, Rodney was giving a wake up call that needed to be listened to.

When he saw that I was truly serious about fighting my situation he slid me perhaps the most valuable information I had received since being on death row.  That was the address to Jordan Smith, a brilliant writer with the Austin Chronicle. I wrote to Jordan and not long afterwards she came to visit me.  What followed was a long, detailed story about my case which exposed my innocence of the crime and also the crooked nature of the Law of Parties. It was Jordan Smith who coined the term, “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” which next to “On Death Row for Driving a Car” — became an international slogan to save my life.  Now I want to help birth the Campaign that saves his life.

At least to contribute to it, because Rodney has been building since day one  But, one thing I want to say is that what he is going through is not only a VILE injustice but it’s flat out ridiculous.  It’s flat out ridiculous because not only does the evidence and facts point to another perpetrator, that perpetrator is now locked up for the exact type of crime that Rodney was accused of.  The crime that he actually committed and got away with and placed Rodney on death row for.  I urge you to read it for yourself.  I also urge you to do something about this insanity.  You can start by contacting members of the the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, read more about the case at www.nodeathpenalty.org  Contact  Lily at nodeathpenalty dot org for ways to get involved.  I am asking everyone of my abolitionist friends to find out what you can do to help this man: sign a petition, make a call/fax/email. Then I ask you to post whatever you did on your page and make this NEED TO SAVE REED a wildfire.  Let it catch like hell and save this man.  This man that is innocent, this man that has helped others since day one, this man that is my friend, brother and fellow struggler who took the time to care about my life and put me on the path to save it.

No matter if I get out or not, I am invested in the fight against the death penalty.  I am invested in the concern for ones like Tony Ford, Rudy Medrano, Jeff Wood, George McFarland, Howard Guidry — beyond their convictions but to their redemption and efforts to do better and be better.  I ask you to not be fooled by Law and Order and don’t be fooled by us!  I ask you to pay ATTENTION and see what’s really going on.  While every cry is not a just cry, you will never know what injustice is if you don’t listen.  I ask you to listen to the cry of Rodney Reed, learn, then levy an assault against this system that doesn’t give a damn about truth, but only upholding their authority be it by manipulation or murder.  Don’t accept it.  We didn’t accept it for Mumia Abu Jamal.  We didn’t accept it for Oscar Grant or Ferguson.  Rodney’s execution date is March 5th 2015.  Don’t accept it for Rodney Reed!  “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world!” — Howard Zinn.

Protest for Rodney Reed in Berlin

Supporters of Rodney Reed have organized a protest in Berlin! On Sunday, March 1, take a stand for Rodney at the US Embassy in Pariser Platz at 15:00. The German language announcement can be read in full here. As the organizers say:

No state has the right to kill people , not by the military, the police nor thedeath penalty! That is why we say : #dontshoot #wecantbreathe and do away with the death penalty !

A German translation of  Jordan Smith’s excellent article “Is Texas Getting Ready to Execute an Innocent Man?”  is available here  from Indymedia.

Organizing Conference Call to Join Rodney Activists across the World

 

Evidence Matters banner

Monday, January 26, 2015 at 7:00PM CST, Worldwide

BLACK LIVES MATTER — RODNEY’S LIFE MATTERS

Please JOIN US for a conference call to discuss national and international organizing strategies for supporters outside of the Austin area. We need everyone to come on board now to help with efforts to STOP the upcoming execution of Rodney Reed. He is scheduled to be executed in Texas on March 5th.

Recently the courts have denied Rodney’s request to have DNA testing done on the belt used to strangle Stacey and other evidence that has never been tested. Rodney, his family, and activists have been fighting for 17 years to win him justice.

Now we need everyone to join with us, raise their voice and stop this execution from going forward!
https://www.facebook.com/events/446167022200376/


CALL in #1-712-432-0460
ACCESS CODE 152872#

(Please email marlene at nodeathpenalty.org if you plan to be on the call, and indicate what state you are from and what organization you are affiliated with if any, thanks!)

We need all justice loving people to come on board!
Help spread the word by inviting your friends!

 

“Governor Abbott is a Catholic lone-wolf on Death Penalty”

The Houston Chronicle posted an opinion piece on the contradictory nature of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Catholic faith and his commitment to the death penalty. Writes Rev. Marty Troyer:

Today I heard you [Abbott] invoke God’s grace for yourself, while consciously planning to refuse it for those on Texas’ death row; including Arnold Prieto, age 41, who is scheduled to be your first execution on the second day of your Governorship (Wednesday). Perhaps I’m just confused. Or perhaps the cognitive dissonance I and others experience between your faith and politics is an integrity gap that will have grave implications.

Undoubtedly it will further the cycle of violence in Texas (“those who live by the sword will die by the sword”). Likely it will lead to the death of an innocent; and thus unmask the moral bankruptcy of our social imagination in the same way Jesus’ unjust execution did.

 

Pope Francis has called for an end to the death penalty . Perhaps new governor Abbott can be swayed by his church’s highest official. If you are a member of the faith community and would like to join the growing number of Austin-area clergy in support of Rodney, please contact us to add your or your congregation’s name!

Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed by protests for Rodney Reed

On January 20, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was sworn in as the 48th Governor of Texas. He inherited Rick Perry’s bloody legacy of 278 executions, with three executions scheduled for January. Amid the parade and free BBQ, Gov. Abbott was also greeted by supporters of Rodney Reed at 11:00 AM during the inauguration and again at 5:30 PM. The Texas Observer reports:

At the protest yesterday, supporters chanted and held signs that read “Governor Abbott don’t kill an innocent man” and “Drop the Date! Test the DNA,” while cars driving by blew their horns in support.

Supporters hold signs as Greg Abbott is sworn in as 48th governor of Texas Picture by Austin American Statesman

Supporters hold signs in the crowd as Greg Abbott is sworn in as 48th governor of Texas
Picture by Austin American Statesman

After Gov. Greg Abbott was sworn in as 48th governor of Texas, supporters rallied outside the capitol to demand justice

After the swearing in, supporters rallied outside the capitol to demand justice

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Following the inauguration of Gov. Abbott

Outside the Capitol

Other local coverage can be found here:

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20150120-abbott-shows-he-values-lessons-of-mrs.-nickel.ece

http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2015/01/supporters-protestors-gather-on-capitol-lawn.html/

http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/27897432/group-stages-rodney-reed-protest-at-the-state-capitol

 

Goodbye to Rick Perry, Texas’ deadliest governor

An excellent piece at Salon.com by Luke Brinker on the deadly legacy of Rick Perry. He leaves office having overseen the execution of almost 300 men and women.

Of course, certain individuals are more likely to be executed than others. African Americans account for a disproportionate share of those executed on Perry’s watch; while blacks make up just 11.6 percent of Texas’ population, they represented 40 percent of those put to death during Perry’s tenure. Whites (44.4 percent of the population) accounted for another 40 percent of executions, while Latinos (38.2 percent of the population) accounted for the remaining 20 percent.

Conservatives may argue that the overrepresentation of African Americans on death row isn’t an overrepresentation at all — that the figures simply reflect who commits crimes, and that’s that. This notion may be comforting to those who would rather not confront the problems of systemic racism that continue to plague our criminal justice system, but it has no basis in reality: As with other states, Texas is substantially more likely to seek the death penalty against a black person convicted of killing a white person than against those convicted of killing a black person.

http://www.salon.com/2015/01/20/texas_executed_279_people_on_rick_perrys_watch/